My fat gold watch.
Sylvia Plath Love set you going like a fat gold watch. The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry Took its place among the elements. Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue. In a drafty museum, your nakedness Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls. I’m no more your mother Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow Effacement at the wind’s hand. All night your moth-breath Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen: A far sea moves in my ear. One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral In my Victorian nightgown. Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try Your handful of notes; The clear vowels rise like balloons.
When I was a young girl, I discovered Sylvia Plath’s poetry. I believe I was in high school — a young woman I suppose. But when I look back, I see a girl, young and slight, sensitive, so lonely, and desperately hopeful for a bright and exciting future. I bought a book of Plath’s poetry, and I read and re-read her poems at night, drawing my own conclusions about life, relating SO much and so deeply to her words. I recited “Daddy” in front of my tenth grade class. Ach, du.
Of course, I know now that I understood perhaps very little. And I think I understand little still of this odd and brilliant woman’s writing. But this, this poem. I get it now. I understand it so well that tears come to my eyes when I read it. I see her experiencing it — because this is the poem that is Sylvia to me. It is Sylvia, I imagine, before her life went bad. It was her marriage, her love, her daily being before things started to fall apart, before the thoughts took hold that took her down to a dark place. When I read this poem as a girl, I thought it was lovely. But I get it now.
Sam, my fat gold watch. He is fat, more valuable than gold, soft and pliant, a watch that tells the time of our life and ticks on as we grow old. It was our love that set him going. Yes, just about a year ago. He wasn’t there, and then he was. A brand new watch that had never ticked and then was set for the first time.
I imagine Sylvia Plath, undone, confused, awakened at night, cow-heavy in a worn floral nightgown, meditating on her baby as she feeds her, looking through the window. The stars are now dull, she thinks. And here is the morning. Everything is changed. My child, a statue. Disconnected, wondrous, new, perfect, art.